National » Kerala

Updated: August 25, 2009 19:20 IST

Probe on into theft of Ravi Varma replicas

G. Mahadevan
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Self portrait of Raja Ravi Varma
Self portrait of Raja Ravi Varma

A set of paintings have been stolen from the art gallery at the Kilimanoor Palace near Thiruvananthapuram. Three of them were reproductions of works by Raja Ravi Varma.

Four paintings have been stolen from the art gallery at the Kilimanoor Palace near here. Three of them were reproductions of works by the world-renowned 19th century painter Raja Ravi Varma who was born in the palace.

The police have launched an investigation into the theft which is believed to have taken place on Saturday night.

The missing paintings were the copies of the noted Ravi Vama works - ‘Gypsies’, ‘Jatayuvadhom’ and ‘Shakunthala.’ The only original work that went missing was ‘Hamsadamayanthi’ painted by Bhavani Thampuratti, grand-niece of Ravi Varma.

The copies of ‘Gypsies’ and ‘Jatayuvadhom’ were made and handed over to the art gallery by the Kerala Lalithakala Academy in the 1990s. The third copy is an earlier reproduction, the joint secretary of the Kilimanoor Palace Trust Biju Rama Varma told The Hindu on Monday. It was Mr. Varma who first noticed that the paintings were missing on Sunday.

“We are all shaken by Saturday’s developments. Lots of Ravi Varma admirers visit this gallery but nothing like this has happened before,” he said.

“Bhavani Thampuratti painted ‘Hamsadamayanthi’ in the 1980s and gave it to the gallery. She was an adherent of the Ravi Varma tradition and was tutored in the art by Ravi Varma’s own sister Mangala Bai Thampuratti. More than any commercial aspect, all of us at the palace have an emotional attachment to that work,” Mr. Varma explained. The frames of the four paintings were found abandoned some distance from the art gallery building.

The Attingal Deputy Superintendent of Police D. Rajendran, told The Hindu that the burglers appear to have entered the building after pushing aside a wire mesh that covered a broken window pane. (This large window dominates one wall of the gallery and was designed to allow enough light into the gallery to enable Ravi Varma to paint.) The cash collection — from the issue of passes to the public to see the art collection — of the gallery was found untouched, Mr. Rajendran added.

The art gallery building located in the 15-acre Kilimanoor palace compound is a ‘protected monument’ under the Kerala Ancient Monuments and Archaeological sites and Remains Act of 1968. However, there are no security personnel assigned to it.

“Following this incident, the palace has decided to put in place some security measures at the art gallery. We would like the government also to do something on this front,” Mr. Varma added.

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